Peter Costello, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is a writer with an interest in the cultural and commercial history of modern Ireland. He is the author of over twenty books, among them The Heart Grown Brutal: The Irish Revolution in Literature from Parnell to the Death of Yeats, 1891-1939 (Dublin, 1974) and The Very Heart of the City: The Story of Denis Guiney and Clerys (Dublin, 1992, co-authored with Tony Farmar). He is well known for his books on Joycean matters, the most recent of which is John Stanislaus Joyce (London, 1997; New York, 1998, co-authored with John Wyse Jackson).
Denis Guiney (1893-1967) was one of the most remarkable Irishmen of his generation, who exerted through his business career a significant influence on the development of the economy and lifestyle of modern Ireland. As a draper, he rose from working in small country shops to become the owner of one of the country's biggest enterprises, the largest private company then in Ireland, the successor to part of a commercial empire created by a series of earlier Irish entrepreneurs, which he transformed to serve the ever-increasing and ever-changing needs of the population of a new kind of Ireland. He is one of those whose lives have materially contributed to the creation of the country's modern prosperity. Many talked airily of a 'New Ireland'. Denis Guiney helped create it.
Early Years, 1893-1908
The World of Work, 1908-21
In Business for Himself, 1921-40
The Making of a Department Store
The Proprietor of Clerys, 1940-9
Through Leaner Years, 1950-9
A Whole New Scene, 1960-7
"One of the chief merits of this study is the manner in which the author places the business career of Guiney in the context of major social and economic developments at home and abroad. He also highlights the links between Guiney and some of his significant contemporaries, including Seán Lemass and the other members of successive Fianna Fáil administrations. In many ways Guiney frequently revealed his pride in his Kerry roots. This, the wide range of his charitable activity and his involvement in promoting the memorial to Daniel O’Connell, are well documented by the author. All of which make this a worthy memoir of a most self-effacing person who in his own way was a major contributor to the development of modern Ireland."
J. Anthony Gaughan
The Irish Catholic
March 12, 2009
"Bookworm [History Ireland] is always on the lookout for publications that appeal to a particular type of reader: Leaving Cert and A-level student, languid undergrad, or general readers whose enthusiasm for history is not matched by the necessary leisure time to plough through academic monographs … A case in point was the 'Life and Times' series published by the Historical Association of Ireland in the 1990s, which aimed 'to place the lives of leading figures in Irish history against the background of new research'. The good news is that the series is back, with the same mission statement, this time published by UCD Press."
"This new series of lives and times from UCD Press is to be hailed for its attention to other than major (Mitchel) and minor (Kettle) players on the political stage and for turning its attention to the often more socially consequential commercial figures. Certainly Denis Guiney was one of those and he has been fortunate in his biographer here, Peter Costello, whose work on the Joyces, pere and fils, is remarkable. Costello never adopts the intellectual’s condescending stance towards the successful entrepreneur. This study is an enjoyable slice of social history as well as a record of ambition and achievement."
"This pocket size account of the life and career of Denis Guiney (1893–1967), an Irish businessman, marks a new departure for this series of books from the Historical Association of Ireland. It is the first title to deal with an historical figure who was not in any way associated with active politics or public affairs. The writing style is more popular than academic, in keeping with the intended audience of general readers who take an interest in Irish history."
Book News Inc
"Also welcome is the new series of the Historical Association of Ireland’s Life and Times concise biographies, which started out some years ago under the Dundalgan Press imprint. It has now been taken over by the excellent UCD Press and given a makeover and smart new livery, keeping the bright blue colour scheme of the originals. The aim of the series is to provide scholarly and accessibly brief biographies of major figures in Irish history by experts in the field, suitable for Leaving Certificate, A level and undergraduate students but also for the general reader."